How Do You Balance Personal and Professional on Social Media?

When people say they leave their personal lives out of their work, I imagine them as tourists. They travel to their office with suitcases full of musical tastes, food preferences and hobbies, but only unpack them in the privacy of their home.

Social media is blurring this line between personal and professional -- it's becoming harder to keep all your personal baggage packed in tight suitcases.

The challenge of personal and professional online identities surfaced this week in a forum thread on InboundMarketing.com . "I'm trying to work through whether it's best to try to keep your private and professional personas separate when using social media," wrote Thad Peterson , manager for global sales at Monster .

Four pieces of advice emerged from the thread Thad kicked off:


First Priority: Level of Comfort

Don't mix your business and personal accounts unless you feel comfotable doing so.

For example, Rena Bernstein describes revealing her personal life to professional connections like being at "a meeting in pajamas." "While I do agree that my business persona should include personal aspects of who I am, I do have significant reservations about having photos of my kids, or conversations between myself and old college buddies about the 'glory days' being mixed in with my professional advice to clients," she wrote in the forum thread.

Rena's opinion is shared by many marketers who prefer to keep their professional and personal accounts separate. More than anything else, this is a question of different comfort levels and what feels natural to you. If maintaining a mixed page is forced, then separate pages might be the better option for you. As connections from different accounts start overlapping, you can get more comfortable and join the pajama party.

Don't Hide Information

As nothing is truly private on the Web, make sure you are not hiding information. It is perfectly fine to keep your personal and professional accounts separate as long as you are being transparent about it. Being upfront and honest instills trust in your networks and opens the doors to a two-way communication.

At the end of the day, criticisms are as important as compliments. While flattering content brings you reassurance, unflattering content demonstrates openness, encourages dialogue and enables constant improvement.

Show Your Quirkiness

Make sure to show the quirky aspects of your life and business in the social mediasphere. Social networks nurture curiosity for idiosyncrasies. When people explore the quirky personalities of their connections, they feel more attached to them and reassured in their approachability. This is an especially powerful tool for small businesses to compete with bigger companies.

Tony Hsieh , CEO of Zappos, provides an excellent example of that. For one thing, Tony has created a Twitter account for his cat @el_gato that not only tweets, but also meows. El Gato has 2, 318 followers. As Aditi Sawhney commented , Tony maintains "a perfect blend of his personal and professional life at Zappos." He is open about both his business affiliation and quirky personality. As a result, his followers see him as a genuine person, truly connected to them.

Reconcile Your Identities

Reconcile your different identities as every one of them offers an opportunity for a conversation starter. Having to pick a professional or a personal identity is a black-and-white scenario. But social media is like a color kaleidoscope providing opportunities that weren't available before. It allows you to listen to conversations and participate in them as a business professional, a parent, a book lover and a baseball fan all at the same time.

That seems to be the conclusion Thad had reached: "Social media is all about people connecting with people, and so your true personality is bound to come out -- no real point in trying to hide who you are as a person."

Photo Credit: niko BCN

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